MANILA — United States Ambassador to Manila Sung Kim on Wednesday urged all parties involved in the South China Sea to refrain from “provocative” and “unilateral” actions that go against international practices amid China’s reported missile testing in the disputed waters.
“We obviously urge all countries to refrain from provocative and unilateral actions that are inconsistent with international norms and practices,” he said during a press conference in Makati City.
“We have stated our position very clearly for quite some time now and I believe that our friends in the Philippines agree that countries, including China, should refrain from such actions,” he added.
Asked if the US is concerned about the reported militarization in the area, he answered in the affirmative.
“I think we have long been concerned and it’s not just the US but I think countries in the region have been concerned about aggressive unilateral actions in the disputed areas, including militarization by China. It’s clear that countries should behave according to international norms and practices and laws,” he stressed.
“In fact, China itself has indicated that it would stop militarization but obviously that has not happened,” he said.
A Reuters report dated July 3 quoted an anonymous source saying China has recently tested multiple anti-ship ballistic missiles in the South China Sea, an act described by the Pentagon as “disturbing”.
In a recent briefing, however, the Chinese Foreign Ministry deferred to its defense ministry when asked to confirm the veracity of the report.
Any armed attack triggers MDT
Meanwhile, Kim reiterated that any armed attack against the Philippine forces, aircraft, and public vessels could trigger Washington’s obligation under the Mutual Defense Treaty.
“I think Secretary (Michael) Pompeo was quite clear when he made that statement in the Philippines and in fact, he conveyed that commitment directly to President (Rodrigo) Duterte in his meeting with the President,” he said.
China, Taiwan and several Southeast Asian countries including the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Vietnam, have overlapping claims in the South China Sea.
Last week, Duterte dared the US, as well as Great Britain and France, to help Manila assert its rights in the hotly-contested waters after being frustrated by criticism that he has failed to confront Beijing over its aggression in the area.
When asked to comment, Kim only reiterated Washington’s position in the region.
“As you know, we diplomats are very cautious about answering hypothetical questions and I think it’s important to remember that it has been our consistent position, and I think it has been the consistent position of all countries including claimants, that the dispute should be resolved in a manner (that’s) consistent of international norms, practices,” he said. Joyce Ann L. Rocamora / PNA – northboundasia.com